Father watched from live feed as Texas shooting suspect allegedly broke into home where family was killed

New court documents detail how the suspect in a shooting rampage across Texas this week allegedly broke into a home where a woman and her daughter with “special needs” would be killed, and how the suspect later tried to escape from jail but was quickly overpowered.

Shane James, 34, was being held in a room in the Travis County Jail on Wednesday following his arrest Tuesday night when he “pushed past” a corrections officer who was walking out, but was stopped in the hallway and “restrained” by deputies who “had to use force” to subdue him, according to a probable cause affidavit and a Travis County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman.

The jail is a “multi-floor, secure facility and James would neither have been able to escape the floor he was on, nor the building itself,” spokeswoman Kristen Dark said Friday in an email.

Authorities on Friday were continuing to investigate why James, a former U.S. Army officer, went on a string of attacks that left six dead and three others injured near San Antonio and in Austin, and whether it could have been prevented since he had an active arrest warrant related to an incident from early 2022.

James faces pre-indictment charges of capital murder of multiple persons and capital murder by terror threat/other felony, which are punishable by death. A hearing is scheduled for Jan. 18.

A newly released probable cause affidavit describes one of the attacks in Austin that occurred before 7 p.m. local time Tuesday.

A man watching a live feed of his home surveillance system called 911 to say someone had broken into his residence on Austral Loop in the city’s southwest. Detectives arrived at the scene and confronted James, who then fired multiple times, hitting a detective before stealing a car from the home and speeding off, according to the affidavit, which was obtained by NBC affiliate WOAI-TV in San Antonio.

A detective who later reviewed security footage of the incident said James could be seen kicking down a back door of the home while holding a weapon, which was identified in the affidavit as an Inland Manufacturing 1911 A1 .45-caliber pistol.

Police also found two women inside the home with gunshot wounds, but they could not be revived and were pronounced dead at the scene at 7:30 p.m., the affidavit said. Police identified them as Katherine Short, 56, and Lauren Short, 30. The man who called 911 identified them as his wife and a daughter who has “special needs,” according to court records.

James led police on a pursuit of speeds reaching 90 mph, and he was apprehended after crashing the stolen Acura, the affidavit said, adding that a pistol and handgun magazines were found on him.

A search warrant obtained by WOAI-TV said that Austin police are seeking to obtain DNA samples from James in connection with the Austral Loop home invasion.

String of shootings

The violent chain of events may have begun sometime between late Monday and Tuesday morning, Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said at news conference Wednesday.

James’ parents, Phyllis and Shane James Sr., last spoke with family members before 10 p.m. Monday, Salazar said. Their bodies were then discovered Tuesday evening in the family’s San Antonio-area home, after the attacks had already begun that day, he added.

It’s unclear whether they were killed late Monday or Tuesday.

An initial call in the string of attacks was received at around 10:43 a.m. Tuesday, when police in Austin were told that a sergeant with the Austin Independent School District police force had been shot.

The local high school went into lockdown, and the shooting prompted a search for a gunman.

The injured officer was identified Friday as Sgt. Val Barnes, a veteran officer with the school district. “I’m just glad it was me, and not any of our kids,” Barnes, who was struck in his leg, said in a statement.

Then, just before noon Tuesday, police received multiple calls about a double homicide in south Austin. One of the victims, later identified as Emmanuel Pop Ba, 32, was dead when officers arrived. The other victim, Sabrina Rahman, 24, was taken to a hospital, where she died, Austin police said.

About five hours later, police received a report of a male bicyclist who had been shot, but that person sustained a non-life-threatening injury, authorities said.

A woman is consoled at the site where her husband was killed in Austin.
A woman is consoled on Dec. 6, 2023, at the site where her husband was killed in Austin the previous day.Jay Janner / USA-Today Network

Less than two hours later, the 911 call was received about a home burglary on Austral Loop.

Authorities say they are continuing to trace the weapon they believe was used in the attacks and could not immediately say how it was obtained. It’s unclear what connection James had, if any, to the victims in Austin.

Bailed out in 2022

James had been known to law enforcement in Bexar County, where his family has a home near San Antonio, and questions are mounting around his bond and his ability to remain out of jail despite warrants out for his arrest since early 2022.

In January of that year, James was arrested on three misdemeanor assault charges for allegedly pushing and scratching his parents and a sibling at the family home, according to court documents.

The Texas Organizing Project, a nonprofit organization that supports defendants in the state who can’t afford to post bail, said that it helped to bail out James in coordination with the Bexar County Public Defender’s Office and paid a $300 bond fee. It said it was last in contact with James that March.

“We want to make clear that TOP has a thorough and rigorous screening process in place to assess individuals who are eligible for our bail program, with a focus on assisting with misdemeanor offenses,” the organization said in a statement this week. “James was deemed eligible based on our criteria at the time.”

Upon his release in March 2022 on the three misdemeanor assault charges, James cut off his ankle monitor, which prompted authorities to obtain an arrest warrant for violating bond, officials said at Wednesday’s news conference.

In August, deputies were called to the James residence because of a “mental health episode,” Salazar, the Bexar County sheriff, said. But deputies ultimately did not arrest him at the time, as he was having an apparent crisis, and Salazar said deputies may have been hesitant to get physical with James, who was not wearing clothes, over misdemeanor charges.

Officials at the news conference acknowledged his history of mental health issues but said they did not know about other accusations against him, including from when he was in the military, and don’t believe they would have had access to that information at the time of his arrest in 2022.

“We know now that there was a domestic violence incident of some sort in the military,” Salazar said, adding: “I don’t know to what extent, I just know it had something to do with why he left the military.”

James was an Army infantry officer from February 2013 to August 2015, an Army spokesperson said. He had no deployments, and his last rank was first lieutenant, the spokesperson said.

The Texas Organizing Project, whose primary goal is to end mass incarceration largely affecting Black and Latino communities, said its decision to help James last year will be part of a larger review.

The organization “has worked with Bexar County officials to advocate for policies that balance the rights of the accused, safety of the community, and cost to taxpayers for pretrial incarceration,” Michelle Tremillo, the group’s co-executive director, said in a statement Friday. “The pretrial assessment, the judge’s decision, and the actions of the district attorney’s office and the public defender’s office in this case were consistent with current best practices for low-level misdemeanors in the state of Texas.”

The group has also endorsed progressive elected officials, and in 2020, supported the re-election campaign of Salazar, who that same year called on other elected officials to donate to the organization.

At this week’s news conference, Salazar said he did not think he had to refund any campaign support from the Texas Organizing Project.

“They didn’t do anything wrong in helping this gentleman exercise his right to bond,” he said. “I don’t regret anybody supporting me.”